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TR: Short Yosemite Weekend 8/9-8/11

Posted: Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:00 pm
by calarn
With a 12 week old daughter at home and a busy schedule at work, I was not expecting any backpacking trips this season. However, a weekend off lined up with my wife's best friend visiting, so I left the three girls in Sacramento and convinced a couple buddies to join me in the wilderness for a short trip.

I recently learned about a Yosemite permit oddity, the Budd Creek permit. This is a normal wilderness backpacking permit, however you are not allowed to camp in the Budd Creek drainage, making some off-trail travel necessary. I guess the off-trail requirement is enough to prevent many people from taking this permit. I was able to reserve our 3 person permit only 2 weeks before the trip, which seems astonishing for a trailhead in the Tuolumne area. It was a great intro to off-trail hiking for my two friends who had done some backpacking, but had no off-trail navigation experience.

Day 0: One of us was able to get down to Yosemite in time to pick up our permit on Friday night and snag a spot at the backpacker's camp in Tuolumne. The other 2 arrived a bit later, set up our tents, enjoyed a beer, and hit the sack.

Day 1: We woke early and grabbed breakfast burritos at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge as they opened. Delicious! We dropped one car at our exit point at the Sunrise Lakes TH and then got on trail at the Cathedral Lakes TH. After less than half a mile of hiking, we split from the JMT to head left up the Budd Creek Trail. This lovely section of trail parallels Budd Creek and then bends west of Budd Lake as it approaches Cathedral Peak. It is primarily a climber trail and there were a few groups gathering for some climbing as we broke off the trail to cross the saddle just south of Cathedral Peak.
The navigtion was quite easy across the saddle and down the other side to rejoin the JMT at Upper Cathedral Lake. We did get cliffed out at one spot by heading too far south, but we were able to retrace our steps and make it to the trail without trouble. The hiking south along the JMT was easy and it was fun to meet folks just a couple days into their thru-hike.
At Sunrise High Sierra Camp, we took a right turn, and hiked up and over the little pass to Upper Sunrise Lake. Thanks to the wonderful information on this forum, I suggested we swing around to the far east side of the lake and we found a lovely campsite. We spent the afternoon messing around camp, lounging, and just generally enjoying ourselves.
Day 2: We slept in a bit, but were on the trail by 9:30. We hiked down past middle and lower Sunrise Lakes. Lower Sunrise was quite crowded and we were happy about our decision to stay the night at Upper Sunrise without company. At the intersection with the Clouds Rest trail, I used another piece of information gleaned from this forum. A use trail heads west from this intersection to a great viewpoint over Tenaya canyon, with Clouds Rest and Half Dome in the distance.
We continued south on the Clouds Rest trail to the top of its namesake and the views were spectacular on this ironically cloudless day.
Then it was a hike down to our waiting vehicle at Tenaya lake. We collected our other car from the starting trailhead and enjoyed a meal at the Tuolumne store before leaving Yosemite.

All in all, a very enjoyable short wilderness weekend, all the sweeter because I was not expecting any backpacking time this season.

Re: TR: Short Yosemite Weekend 8/9-8/11

Posted: Sun Sep 15, 2019 9:59 pm
by balzaccom
Nice report. That's a lovely area.

However, I have to point out that using the Budd Lake Trailhead Quota to directly access Cathedral Lakes and Sunrise is not allowed--at least that's what they told me at the Wilderness Office last year. With a Budd Lake Permit you are supposed to hike around Echo Peaks and camp somewhere in the Echo Creek drainage the first night. I know this because I specifically asked the ranger about it when I received the permit. The whole point of those permits is to limit first night traffic at Cathedral and Sunrise---which is just what you did.

I am not suggesting that you are a violent criminal...grin...just pointing out that if anyone were to try to repeat your trip, and got stopped by a ranger, they would in all likelihood be re-directed to Echo Lake and its environs for the first night. After that, of course, you are free to roam.

Re: TR: Short Yosemite Weekend 8/9-8/11

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 12:09 am
by calarn
Well damn, that is news to me. My buddy who picked up the permit had our itinerary and discussed it with the ranger issuing the permit. Maybe that ranger didn't know the rules, or they've changed? Is there anywhere you've seen that rule posted online? The information on the Budd creek permit is pretty scant online, but I always try to follow the rules!

Re: TR: Short Yosemite Weekend 8/9-8/11

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:50 am
by balzaccom
Nothing on line. That's why I asked about it at the Wilderness Office. It's hard to believe that the rules have changed...but you never know!

Re: TR: Short Yosemite Weekend 8/9-8/11

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 11:48 am
by SSSdave
Don't worry at all, as there are a list of minor things the NF and NP could do to reduce confusion. Online information is much better than decades ago but still comes up somewhat short IMO. I've been encouraging Yosemite and Inyo NF to put those trailhead zone camping maps online like Desolation does. It's not uncommon for those behind the counter to not actually be backpackers at all with only modest hiking experience in areas they are working. So not a few backcountry locations mentioned in conversations likely go in one ear and out the other.

1. Where can I camp?
The trailhead quota system limits use based on where you begin your hike, and in some cases, on where you camp the first night of your trip. After the first night, you may camp wherever you can hike to within the wilderness.

Yeah first night one must tent within the zone map for a permit. Same policy in all the national forests. Why do they expect users to know where that is if the only map of zones is on or behind their counters? A couple weeks ago I couldn't even find a list of approved bear canisters on the Inyo NF site or at links they pointed to.

Re: TR: Short Yosemite Weekend 8/9-8/11

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:14 am
by Bishop_Bob
Congratulations on getting out - so tough to do with a baby, but the stars aligned for you.

Re: TR: Short Yosemite Weekend 8/9-8/11

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:30 pm
by windknot
Thanks for the report! This is a really pretty area.

I once had to change trip itineraries at the last minute because the ranger at the permit office told me that the unnamed lake below Johnson Peak (south of Tuolumne Meadows) was not a legal campsite due to it being too close to the trailhead. This contradicted previous information I had heard, but I wasn't about to argue with a ranger so I changed plans to a 20 Lakes Basin overnighter instead.

Re: TR: Short Yosemite Weekend 8/9-8/11

Posted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:08 am
by balzaccom
Yep. Anything north of the Cathedral Range crest is day-hiking only...

In defense of everyone who gets confused, my understanding is that most of these permits going over the Cathedral Range are expected to be used by climbers tackling the South Face of Cathedral, Matthes Crest, etc. I think the NPS expects most backpacking will tackle something with a trail to the final destination, at least for the first five miles.